11 Amazing Benefits of Saffron

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

The most impressive health benefits of saffron include its ability to improve respiratory health, optimize the digestive system, eliminate pain, and improve sleep patterns. It is also able to prevent cancer, reduce bleeding, boost heart health, increase circulation, manage diabetes, strengthen bones, and improve the immune function.

What is Saffron?

Saffron is a popular spice that can be acquired from a flower commonly called the saffron crocus. With the scientific name Crocus sativus, the stigmas of this plant can be dried and processed into a spice, which is considered to be the most valuable spice by weight. These “threads” as they are called, are typically reddish-orange, the same color as the spice, and are carefully removed from flowers by hand. This herb is highly desired because of its ability to season and color food, as well as its inherent health benefits. [1]

The unique organic composition of saffron makes it a powerful addition to your diet, as it contains more than 150 volatile compounds, including carotenoids, safranal, crocin, antioxidants, and other biochemicals, as well as minerals and vitamins that are essential to human health. As per USDA National Nutrient Database, saffron contains, Vitamins A, C, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, vitamin B-6, folate, vitamin B-12, potassium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, and zinc. [2]

The most common form of saffron is in the dried or powdered form, but you can also get saffron supplements at certain herbal food stores. Only a small amount of the spice is necessary to effect, and the maximum that should be consumed in a day is between 0.5 grams and 1 gram of this valuable spice. Saffron can be applied topically for a massage, used in sauces, broths, hot drinks, or as pills. You can find saffron at most organic health stores and grocery stores, and the pill supplements can be found in herbalist and nutritional locations. There are also many variations of saffron, such as Afghan saffron, pure Spanish saffron, and Persian saffron and they all offer a unique new addition to your dish. [3]

A wooden bowl and scoop filled with saffron and surrounded by fresh saffron flowers on a wooden table

Saffron is the world’s most costly spice by weight. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Health Benefits

Let’s take a closer look at this fascinating herb to uncover the many health benefits of saffron.

Boosts Immunity

Although people often think of spices as nothing but food flavoring tools, they still contain high concentrations of certain important nutrients, including vitamin C. According to a study published in the China Journal of Chinese Materia Medica, ascorbic acid is important for human health, as it stimulates the immune system’s production of white blood cells, the body’s first line of defense against illness. It is also crucial to the production of collagen, which is necessary for cellular production in the body and contributes to wound healing, muscle growth, blood vessel repair, and tissue production. [4]

Nutrition Facts

Spices, saffron
Serving Size :
Water [g]11.9
Energy 310
Energy [kJ]1298
Protein [g]11.43
Total lipid (fat) [g]5.85
Ash [g]5.45
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]65.37
Fiber, total dietary [g]3.9
Calcium, Ca [mg]111
Iron, Fe [mg]11.1
Magnesium, Mg [mg]264
Phosphorus, P [mg]252
Potassium, K [mg]1724
Sodium, Na [mg]148
Zinc, Zn [mg]1.09
Copper, Cu [mg]0.33
Manganese, Mn [mg]28.41
Selenium, Se [µg]5.6
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]80.8
Thiamin [mg]0.12
Riboflavin [mg]0.27
Niacin [mg]1.46
Vitamin B-6 [mg]1.01
Folate, total [µg]93
Folate, food [µg]93
Folate, DFE [µg]93
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]27
Vitamin A, IU [IU]530
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]1.59
14:0 [g]0.01
16:0 [g]1.16
18:0 [g]0.25
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.43
16:1 [g]0
18:1 [g]0.39
20:1 [g]0.01
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]2.07
18:2 [g]0.75
18:3 [g]1.24
20:4 [g]0.01
22:5 n-3 (DPA) [g]0.01
Sources include : USDA [5]

Increases Circulation

Saffron can function as an effective energy booster and can increase your metabolism by increasing your blood circulation. A study, which was conducted and later published in the Phytomedicine Journal, had a group of healthy volunteers evaluate the short-term safety and tolerability of saffron stigma tablets. These volunteers were divided into 3 groups of 10 each, ie 5 males and 5 females. After consuming these tablets for a week, it was noted that saffron decreased slightly some of the hematological parameters like the red blood cells, hemoglobin, hematocrit, and platelets, while increasing the sodium, blood urea nitrogen and creatinine levels. [6]

The high concentration of iron in saffron means that it increases the RBCs in your body, which thereby stimulates circulation and the oxygenation of organ systems and the body’s extremities. This improves the efficiency and functionality of the tissues and organ systems for healthier metabolic activity and also prevents the symptoms of anemia.

Protects Heart Health

Improving the health of the heart seems to be one of the top goals in human health today, and one simple way to do this is to increase your potassium intake. Potassium acts as a vasodilator, effectively lowering the stress and pressure on blood vessels and arteries, allowing blood pressure to decrease and relieving strain on the cardiovascular system. This can prevent things like atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes from occurring. [7]

Manages Diabetes

The components of saffron which exert an antidiabetic response are crocin, crocetin, and saffranal. These are known to have an insulin-sensitizing effect. According to a review paper published in the Journal of Herbs, Spices, & Medicinal Plants, saffron is also effective in preventing excess glucose accumulation in the blood. Furthermore, the antioxidant properties of saffron can help with hyperglycemia as well as oxidative stress. This not only helps manage the common symptoms of diabetes but can be helpful in cases of diabetes-related encephalopathy. [8]

Relieves Anxiety

Saffron has been known to relieve mild depression and improve mood in those who regularly consume it. The many active compounds in saffron have some effect on the endocrine system and can stimulate the release of beneficial hormones that keep us happy and healthy. For women, this same effect has also been known to act as an aphrodisiac. It has been hailed as a natural antidepressant by numerous research studies and organizations. [9]

Improves Bone Strength

Some of the minerals and organic compounds in saffron have been linked to optimized nutrient uptake, particularly of calcium. By maximizing the amount of calcium that our body can absorb from food, we have a better chance of improving bone mineral density and preventing the onset of conditions like osteoporosis and other degenerative age-related diseases.

A research was conducted by the Department of Orthopaedics, Xijing Hospital, to study and find out the curative effects of crocin on ovariectomy-induced osteoporosis in rats, which was later published in the Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Journal. For the uninitiated, crocin contains saffron. After the rats were administered with the tablets for 16 days, it was concluded that these saffron induced medicines prevent estrogen deficiency-generated bone loss. Furthermore, it was found that it could manage postmenopausal osteoporosis in elderly women. [10]

Improves Nerve Function

The vitamin B family is one that is often overlooked in human health, but it plays a major role in nerve function throughout the body. More specifically, the high content of vitamin B6 found in this spice can help our nervous system is running smoothly and prevent some of the deadly and dangerous disorders that arise from poor nervous system function. [11]

Analgesic Qualities

Pain relief is always a valuable property of an herb or a natural remedy, and the volatile compound safranal in saffron acts as a sedative for many patients. This sedative action can help relieve pain, reduce anxiety and stress, improve sleep patterns, and generally soothe the mind and body, which is always a good thing! [12]

Potential Anticancer Agent

With more than 100 different compounds acting within saffron’s complex form, antioxidants were bound to make an appearance. According to Dr. Miguel Coca-Prados’s (Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science, Yale University Medical School, USA) report published in the Cancer Letters Journal, saffron extracts can prevent the growth of cancer cells from developing or spreading in the body. [13]

There is a compound called crocin in saffron, which happens to be water-soluble as well as a great cancer therapeutic agent. Studies have also revealed that it helps to inhibit colorectal cancer cell as well as lung cancer cell proliferation. [14] [15]

Reduces Stomach Disorders

One of the oldest and most well-known uses of saffron is for upset stomachs and excess flatulence. Its sedative and anti-inflammatory nature helps calm the stomach and reduce inflammation, which eases things like constipation, bloating, cramping, and other serious conditions like gastric ulcers. [16]

Heals Inflammation

As a topical tool used in massage, saffron oil and creams derived from the flower’s compounds can eliminate aches and pains throughout the body, while also relieving pain and discomfort. For people suffering from sports injuries, arthritis, gout, and other inflammatory conditions, this is a wonderful remedy. Also, for the topical healing of bruises and wounds, the quick-acting antioxidants in saffron can help speed the healing process. [17]

Word of Caution: Consuming saffron in high doses can be potentially dangerous, as the high concentration of active ingredients can have a range of effects on the body. However, in small doses (such as in meals or pill supplement form), it is not known to have any common side effects or allergenic properties. Some side effects that have been reported include dry mouth, dizziness, nausea, anxiety, fatigue, and appetite changes, but these are rare. As always, consult a medical professional or trained herbalist before adding a powerful new element to your herbal regimen.

DMCA.com Protection Status
About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

Rate this article
Average rating 4.0 out of 5.0 based on 523 user(s).